Kalle Rovanperän the quieter start of the season compared to last season has spoken to Finnish rally fans. In the World Rally Championship in Portugal, fans got to see the superiority of the Finnish driver. The reigning world champion gassed for a convincing victory, and Saturday’s driving day in particular was one of the best in Rovanperä’s career.
Second place in Portugal Dani Sordo was 54.7 seconds behind. Sordo’s team mate Esapekka Lappi lost to Rovanpera by one minute and 20 seconds. Rovanperä’s dominance is indicated by ten lap times. The other drivers totaled nine.
– I’ve been missing this feeling. I want to thank Jonny (map reader Possessed) and team. They have been pressing forward well the whole time, Rovanperä talked at the finish line of the rally.
The rally was otherwise difficult for Toyota. Elfyn Evans drove out on Friday and had to stop the rally. Those who also suffered from technical problems on Friday Takamoto Katsuta the rally, which started promisingly, was ruined already in the beginning when the battery charger broke.
Rovanperä came out on top in the World Drivers’ Championship.
The opening day set the footsteps
Rovanperä started second after Evans for the special tests on the opening day. Practically every driver complained that the roads were really slippery. Rovanperä suffered from his starting position on Friday, but did a good enough job to get a better starting position for Saturday. Friday already brought Rovanperä three special test base times.
– The special test is in sickly worse condition than last year, Rovanperä revealed after setting the record time for the sixth special test.
Sordo challenged Rovanperä on Friday, but a taste of the level difference was given in the seventh special test. Sordo made a driving mistake and lost seconds in the top fight. Rovanperä did a flawless job throughout the opening day. The Finn led the rally after Friday by 10.8 seconds.
After Friday, Lapland was fighting for third place. He was 27.3 seconds behind Rovanperä in fifth, but only 1.3 seconds behind his teammate Thierry Neuville after. Between them, there was still a cheerful opening day, and one who drove the bottom time Pierre-Louis Loubet.
M-Sport’s Estonian sled Ott Tänak was in trouble throughout the rally. On Friday, he suffered a flat tire in the fourth special test. As the weekend progressed, there were also problems with the car’s performance and the hybrid.
Saturday was a deafening performance from Rovanpera
The second day of driving started with Rovanperä’s fierce attack on special stage nine. The Finn was 12.8 seconds ahead of second-placed Lapland. The difference between Sordo was 13.3 seconds, and in the overall situation the Finn already led by 24.1 seconds.
– It involved a total disarmament of all competitors. It was a deafening speed, Urheilu’s expert Henri Haapamäki brightened Rovanperä’s morning.
– It’s a mental crush for the competitors when you come to the finish line as a driver and say that the special test went well. Then you hear that Rovanperä pulled 12 seconds harder. It’s not easy to continue on to the next clips, Haapamäki continued.
Rovanperä’s pace continued throughout the morning. He set the record time for all three special tests. The gap to Sordo stretched to more than 50 seconds. The young Finn admitted that the morning was one of the best of his career in terms of driving.
– You bet. We’ve had a lot of good ones, but this is definitely one of them, Rovanperä mused after EK11.
Lappi had a good morning behind the champion, and took third place. At the end of the morning, he was just under five seconds away from Sordo. The group of Hyundai drivers was completed by Neuville, who was 0.9 seconds behind Lapland.
Loubet, on the other hand, fell into a mistake, and ruined his rally that had started well in special stage ten.
During the afternoon special tests, Rovanperä was already able to secure his position at the top. He said he was dodging the biggest rocks and the worst ruts on the road. Behind him, Sordo remained second and Neuville passed Lap for third. However, the difference between the trio was only about 13 seconds.
Neuville rally ruined on Sunday
Saving tires became the theme of the first three special tests on Sunday. Every driver wanted to avoid flat tires and wanted the tires to be preserved for the Power Stage. Thierry Neuville was the biggest sufferer on Sunday, as due to a technical fault with the car, the Belgian immediately dropped from the podium to fifth on the opening lap.
With its tactics, Hyundai earlier pushed Neuville up the leaderboard, as Esapekka Lapi’s pace on Saturday’s longest special stage was sluggish. Of course, no direct confirmation of the stable order was received from the stable.
When leaving for the Power Stage, which ended the rally, the top positions were clear. Sordo was almost 50 seconds away from Rovanperä and Lappi, on the other hand, was 30 seconds away from Sordo.
Rovanperä crowned his rally with the final stretch. The Finn drove headlong and was 0.7 seconds faster than Ott Tänak. Esapekka Lappi was third in the final section.
1. Kalle Rovanperä, Toyota 126.96.36.199
2. Dani Sordo, Hyundai +54.7
3. Esapekka Lappi, Hyundai +1.20,4
4. Ott Tänak, M-Sport +2.04,2
5. Thierry Neuville, Hyundai +8.22,6
6. Gus Greensmith, Skoda +9.43,4 Rally2
7. Oliver Solberg, Skoda +9.44,6 Rally2
8. Andreas Mikkelsen, Skoda +10.26,4 Rally2
9. Yohan Rossel, Citroen +11.33,3 Rally2
10. Teemu Suninen, Hyundai +12.16,4 Rally2
Drivers’ situation (5/13 rallies driven)
1. Kalle Rovanperä FIN Toyota 98
2. Ott Tänak EST Ford 81
3. Sebastien Ogier FRA Toyota 69
4. Elfyn Evans GBR Toyota 69
5. Thierry Neuville BEL Hyundai 68
6. Esapekka Lappi FIN Hyundai 49
7. Dani Sordo ESP Hyundai 36
8. Takamoto Katsuta JPN Toyota 20
1. Toyota 201
2. Hyundai 169
3. M-Sport Ford 134